279 U.S. 377 (1929), 312, Douglas v. New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company

Docket Nº:No. 312
Citation:279 U.S. 377, 49 S.Ct. 355, 73 L.Ed. 747
Party Name:Douglas v. New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company
Case Date:May 13, 1929
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 377

279 U.S. 377 (1929)

49 S.Ct. 355, 73 L.Ed. 747



New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company

No. 312

United States Supreme Court

May 13, 1929

Argued January 16, 1929

Reargued April 15, 16, 1929




1. In determining whether the privileges and immunities clause of the Constitution, or an Act of Congress, is contravened by a state statute, the purport established for the state statute by the highest court of the state is accepted here. P. 385.

2. Where a state law is susceptible of two constructions, one of which might put it in conflict with the Federal Constitution, it is to be presumed that the other construction, rendering it valid, would be adopted by the state courts. P. 386.

3. In § 1780 of the New York Code of Civil Procedure, under which, as locally construed, actions by nonresidents against foreign corporations doing business in the state are subject to dismissal at the discretion of the court, the term "nonresident" should be interpreted as embracing citizens of the state who do not actually live in the state at the time of bringing such actions. P. 386.

4. A state law under which citizens of the state who actually reside there have the right to maintain actions in the state courts against foreign corporations doing business there on causes of action arising from foreign torts, but under which such actions, when brought by nonresidents, whether citizens of that state or of other states, are subject to dismissal at the discretion of the court, makes a distinction based on rational considerations, and does not violate the privileges and immunities clause, Art. IV, § 2, of the Constitution. P. 387.

5. The Federal Employers' Liability Act does not purport to require state courts to entertain actions under it as against an otherwise valid excuse under the state law. P. 387.

248 N.Y. 580 affirmed.

Certiorari, 278 U.S. 590, to review a judgment of the Supreme Court of New York, entered on a rescript from the Court of Appeals affirming the dismissal of an action

Page 378

brought under the Federal Employers' Liability Act. See also 223 App.Div. (N.Y.) 782. The Attorney General of New York was given leave to file a brief and take part in the reargument because of the importance of the case.

Page 385

HOLMES, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a suit under the Employers' Liability Act for personal injuries. The injuries were inflicted in Connecticut, the plaintiff, the petitioner, is a citizen and resident of Connecticut, and the defendant, the respondent, is a Connecticut corporation, although doing business in New York, where the suit was brought. Upon motion, the trial court dismissed the action, assuming that the statutes of the state gave it a discretion in the matter, and its action was affirmed by the Appellate Division, 223 A.D. 782, and by the Court of Appeals, 248 N.Y. 580. Thus, it is established that the statute purports to give to the Court the power that it exercised. But the plaintiff says that the Act as construed is void under Article IV, § 2, of the Constitution of the United States: "The Citizens of each state shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of...

To continue reading